Richard Dent, the former Bears defensive end who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, says he’s glad to be in the Hall now, but he doesn’t know why he had to wait so long.
“I didn’t understand the process. I was patient; didn’t care to call anybody out,” Dent said today at a ceremony in his honor at Halas Hall. “I didn’t really know what the hang-up was. I felt I was one of the guys who made a change in the game in pass rushing and taking the ball from the quarterback.”
With all due respect to Dent, the hang-up was that a lot of voters didn’t think he belonged in the Hall of Fame. And those voters had a very good case for keeping him out.
Dent retired after the 1997 season, meaning he was eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2003. That year, he wasn’t even one of the 15 finalists. He wasn’t one of the finalists in 2006, either. And in the six years that he was a finalist but wasn’t selected, you’d have an awfully hard time saying that he was the most deserving of the candidates who didn’t get in, in any of those years.
Jason Whitlock made some great points on today’s PFT Live, comparing the Hall of Fame merits of Dent and Willie Roaf, whom the selection committee voted down this year. Roaf was twice selected to the NFL’s all-decade team, for both the 1990s and the 2000s. Dent was never selected to the all-decade team. The all-decade teams are chosen by the Hall of Fame selection committee, so some of the same voters who twice declared Roaf one of the best offensive tackles of the decade passed him over in favor of Dent, whom they never declared one of the best defensive ends of the decade.
Another data point: Dent made the Pro Bowl four times. Roaf made the Pro Bowl 11 times.
As Whitlock noted, both on PFT Live and in a column at FOXSports.com, the selection of Dent now feels like a matter of voters just deciding that the Hall of Fame ought to have another guy from those great Bears defenses of the 1980s, rather than actually considering Dent’s candidacy compared to the other players on the ballot this year, especially Roaf.
I also agree with both Whitlock and Florio that the Hall of Fame selection process should have more transparency. As I mentioned yesterday regarding the long conversation that the selection committee had about Deion Sanders, if a player’s candidacy is worthy of a long conversation, the public ought to hear what that conversation entailed.
And more openness about the process would also provide more fairness to candidates who are passed over — like Roaf this year, or like Dent for the last eight years. Even though I don’t agree with the decision to put Dent in the Hall of Fame over Roaf, I’m with Dent when he says he doesn’t understand the process. It’s a process that could be improved with more transparency.